The Message Behind Google’s Responsive Ad Update - KNB Online


Posted by Kevin Brkal

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The Message Behind Google’s Responsive Ad Update

Just this past summer Google Ads dropped an update that forever changed the way marketers deploy their ad campaigns. On June 18, 2022, Google removed expanded text ads from the Google Ads platform. Replacing the feature is the new default text ad: responsive search ads. 

Responsive search ads (RSAs) are an automation enabled feature which lets you write up to 15 headlines and four descriptions for a single ad. The automation will then select the best combination of your copy to present to users based on their search queries. 

This update has had a significant impact on the way marketers are able to strategize, deploy, and test their ad campaigns. Some of this impact has been positive, some not so much, but one thing is clear–marketers are scrambling to adapt to this groundbreaking shift on one of the world’s most popular ad platforms. But what if I told you there was more to this update than simply improving the algorithm, or advancing Google’s control over ad quality? 

Here at KNB we don’t believe in algorithm chasing or trend hopping, but we’re not ones to disregard major change. What we like to focus on is the deeper meaning behind that change, and Google’s summer update came with underlying implications that can bolster your ability to succeed on the platform if we take the time to examine them. So let’s peel back the curtain together and discuss the hidden meaning behind the shift to responsive search ads. 

Innovating the User Experience

Let’s start by considering what makes Google Ads unique. Compared to other platforms such as Facebook or Youtube, Google users are in a much more active state. They are on the platform searching for answers, solutions, ideas, and information. This presents an opportunity for marketers to insert their ads in that feed of answers. But Google wants its users to find what they’re looking for, they care whether or not your ad link lines up to the relevance of the original query. This is where the value of RSA’s begin. 

Responsive search ads give Google more control over the user experience. Instead of leaving the copy entirely up to the marketer, they can use their AI to pick and choose what copy from your ad best matches the quality of the search results. Even the most spectacular keyword strategy can result in ads that don’t align to the user’s original intent, and with this update, Google can now at least begin to optimize the headlines and descriptions of your ads to a degree. 

This emphasis on user experience is the foundation of what Google is trying to tell marketers about the future of their platform. They need marketers to understand the power of relevancy. Relevancy, unlike on almost any other ad platform, is the key to success on Google due to the active nature of its users. If ads continue to rise in relevance to a user’s search then more users will begin to trust those links at the top of the results page with the small “AD” headlining them. Google wants marketers to care about being relevant and improving the quality of their ads to further close the gap between businesses and consumers. 

But of course marketers have always cared about pushing the highest quality in their ads, how does this change teach marketers anything new? Well it comes down to a focus of higher quality, smaller quantity.

Audience quality

Here’s one thing to be certain of. In no way does this change mean it’s time to widen the scope of your ads’ audience targets. Just because Google can now select which copy is most fitting to the user does not mean your ads can be equipped for multiple user segments. 

To put it in perspective let’s discuss one of the obstacles experienced marketers are facing with this change. One of the current cons of RSA’s is the fact that they provide no data on which copy is winning the most clicks. Currently all your headlines and descriptions on an ad all receive the same metrics. So if you’re using a wide range of copy in your RSA’s then you won’t be able to glean any insights on what headlines performed well and which didn’t. 

To counter this challenge, marketer’s are learning to focus their audience segments per ad. If you narrow your focus on one micro audience you can then centralize your copy around that segment and better understand why or why not your ad performed. 

Consider a cleaning products brand. If they have one ad group focused on audiences looking for carpet cleaner, and one audience focused on tile cleaner, they can begin centralizing the copy variations. The ad group for carpet cleaner can have one RSA completely focused on pet stains, another RSA focused on food spills, and another focused entirely on hard to clean white carpet. Even though this ad group is already focused on a certain audience segment, each ad expands on narrowing down this audience with copy purely focused on one specific theme of the segment. Now when the pet focused ad performs better than the food spills ad, marketers can better strategize their initiatives.

Optimize for relevancy

The message is clear: Google wants marketers to be stewards of optimal user experience and expand on the power of relevancy. We’re already seeing the two kinds of marketers responding to this message and the results point to clear winners and losers. 

There are the marketers taking Google’s update as an opportunity to cut back on investment, let the automation do the work for them, and hope to land a hit on a wide but ultimately shallow pool of targets. Then there are those taking notice of the improvements a change like this brings, and are seeking opportunities to expand on those improvements to push ahead of the clutter of brands still navigating the change.

Here are some ways you can be a part of the latter:

– As mentioned, hyper-focus your copy variations so much so that each variation only applies to one aligned audience type.

Take the opportunity to expand your testing not dismiss it–continue building multiple ads that focus on unique click influencers such as content, tone, urgency, and call to actions.

Embrace the nuances–build ads that achieve an excellent quality score every time, generate more ad groups to see what other combinations of text variations work with your wider audience, and continue to analyze the results for meaningful insights.

And don’t forget to carry the power of relevancy throughout the entire buyer’s journey. Google is forcing marketers’ hands when it comes to the ad click because that’s where they have the most control. It’s on us as marketers to continue to focus on relevancy beyond the search ad. That means building landing pages that can support and expand on any variation of copy your RSA presents. 

The one thing a RSA can’t automate for you is a landing page that aligns with the selected copy–another reason to keep your variations very focused. The most successful marketers are even going the extra step and ensuring that each RSA is equipped with a unique landing page so every click gets an optimized chance to convert. 

That may sound like a lot more investment, and I won’t lie to you, that’s because it is. But start small and scale as needed. One fully optimized RSA is more effective than a bundle of poorly executed RSAs. There’s also experts available to help get you started.

We make the nuanced simple 

My team and I are already enjoying exploring all the strategies helping marketers succeed with their Google Ads. We experiment and optimize to help clients achieve lasting success that helps them scale at an accelerated rate. 

If unlocking the potential of your RSA strategies is something you’d like help with then we’re available today. Simply click here and book time with my team so we prepare the best path forward for you. 

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